How to Make Fabric Glow in the Dark

Updated April 17, 2017

Getting fabric to glow in the dark is a challenging proposition. There are several techniques that can be used to make fabric glow in the dark, each with varying degrees of success depending on how long a fabric is intended to glow. Dust dyeing the fabric may be the easiest approach, but it will not survive many washes. Fabric paints that glow in the dark will last a little longer but can crack with the movements of the fabric. Dyeing the fabric is the most permanent solution but may take several attempts before a desired effect is achieved.

Pour 28.4gr. of glow powder into a large plastic bucket.

Place the fabric in the bucket. Press the fabric into the powder.

Remove the fabric from the bucket. Shake out the loose powder. Press another portion of the fabric into the remaining powder. Continue this process until all of the fabric is saturated with the powder. Use additional powder as needed.

Remove the fabric from the bucket. Spray with airbrush sealer to seal the powder into place.

Wash the fabric to be painted. This will ensure the fabric is shrunk to its final size and will remove any treatments from the factory. Dry the fabric.

Iron the fabric to remove all wrinkles.

Tape a garbage bag to a piece of cardboard. This will keep the paint from bleeding through to a second side of fabric or onto the workspace.

Pour the paint onto a palette. Dip the brush generously into the paint.

Press the brush firmly into the fabric with each stroke. Apply a short stroke each time to reduce cracking. The texture of the fabric should be visible, but the colour of the fabric should not be. Add additional layers as needed.

Allow the fabric to air dry. Turn the fabric inside out if possible. Place in a household dryer and dry on high for 50 minutes. Allow the fabric to sit another four days before washing.

Hand wash with cold water to prolong the life of the paint. Allow the fabric to drip dry.

Wash and dry the fabric.

Put on rubber gloves. Mix 1 cup of sodium carbonate in a gallon of water. Soak the fabric in this solution for at least 15 minutes but no longer than one hour.

Dissolve the urea in 1 cup of water.

Mix 4 tsp of fabric dye with on ounce of glow powder.

Put on a face mask. Add the dye and powder mixture to the urea solution. The glow powder will not dissolve but will become suspended in the solution. Pour the solution into a spray bottle.

Remove the fabric from the presoak solution. Ring out excess water but do not allow the fabric to dry. Lay the fabric flat.

Spray the fabric with the dye solution. Shake the bottle periodically to keep the glow powder suspended in the solution. Repeat this step as necessary.

Place the fabric in a sealable plastic bag to lock in the moisture. Keep it in the bag for a minimum of two hours but preferably up to 24 hours.

Wash the fabric separately in cold water.

Things You'll Need

  • Cotton fabric
  • Glow-in-the-dark powder
  • 2 large plastic buckets
  • Airbrush sealer
  • Washer
  • Washing powder
  • Dryer
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Cardboard
  • Garbage bag
  • Masking tape
  • Glow-in-the-dark fabric paint
  • Fabric paint brush
  • Palette
  • Gloves
  • 1 cup sodium carbonate
  • 1 tbsp urea
  • 1 cup water
  • Mask
  • 4 tsp fibre reactive dye
  • Funnel
  • Spray bottle
  • Plastic bag
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About the Author

Gregory M. Dew has been writing about arts and culture since 1998. His work has been published in "The Ohio State Lantern," "Columbus Wired" and "Columbus Yogurt." Dew has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Ohio State University.